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Fox News Biased? Pish Tosh!
May 7, 2003 11:45 PM   Subscribe

Ok, I'm biased. I admit it. I never pass over the chance to gloat or take delight in some misfortune that befalls Rupert Murdoch or his media empire (this is, after all the man who disses the Dalai Lama.)
So it is with great and admittied delight that I announce that the Fox News Channel (which has fought for and won the right to lie to it's viewers) may be stopped from broadcasting in the UK because of it's bias (such a thing has happened before.)
~fingers crossed~
posted by Blue Stone (111 comments total)

 
The link about Fox firing its reporters for threatening to go to the FCC and arguing in court taht they don't have to tell the truth makes me sad. If I knew Jesus I think I'd ring him up and ask what he thought of it.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:07 AM on May 8, 2003


Why does the UK hate america?
posted by mathowie at 12:13 AM on May 8, 2003


"Mr Murdoch, 68, who recently married a 31-year-old Chinese woman, Wendi Deng, also excuses China's disregard for human rights on the ground that the average Chinese person cares more about "his next bowl of rice" than democracy."

Huh. Whaddya know. A fuckin' Commie runs Fox News.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:33 AM on May 8, 2003


MetaFilter: We post, you whine.
posted by TheFarSeid at 12:36 AM on May 8, 2003


Huh. Whaddya know. A fuckin' Commie runs Fox News.

"In his ambition to expand his Star satellite television business in China, Mr Murdoch has already been accused of placing his commercial interests above freedom of speech. In 1994, he dropped the BBC from his Asian Star satellite service after it was critical of Chinese leaders and of the Tiananmen Square killings."

He sounds more like a whore to me.
posted by homunculus at 12:43 AM on May 8, 2003


Mathowie - we in the UK don't hate America. It really really disappoints me to read you saying that.

And you know what... I had some American friends over last week and they were asking why the French hate America so much. My answer was the same: they don't.

The truth is that we can admire the great things about America (freedom of speech, the invention of pop culture, the physical landscape, the people) while recognising the bad things about America (and right now some of those are apparent in the Bush regime.) You don't see French people doing things like changing "Hamburgers" to "Chiracburgers" - our worries about the US are much more sanguine than that.

One only needs to take a look at the huge dominance of US pop culture in Europe to realise that in fact most of us are totally in love with the idea of what America has to offer.

Besides, Rupert Murdoch is Australian (I believe) and what he represents in terms of political bias is not good for either the UK or US.
posted by skylar at 12:57 AM on May 8, 2003


Mathowie - we in the UK don't hate America. It really really disappoints me to read you saying that.

skylar, I was joking.
posted by mathowie at 1:00 AM on May 8, 2003


homonculus: yeah, I know. just tryin' to give the usual suspects something to chew on.
posted by kaibutsu at 1:27 AM on May 8, 2003


No matter how much I hate Fox news, I still believe that people should be allowed to voice their opinions, no matter how fucked up. I know you don't have the 1st Amendment in the UK, but it would be beneficial if you did.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Government censorship is always bad. Private censorship is to be expected.
posted by password at 1:31 AM on May 8, 2003


Okay. Thanks for the link.
posted by skylar at 1:35 AM on May 8, 2003


(you shouldve said you were joking too)
posted by Satapher at 1:40 AM on May 8, 2003


Space Coyote: Initially, I read the part about reporters lying and started nodding my head in agreement with you. But then I started thinking about it ... and I think the Florida court's decision makes sense (even if its whistleblower laws are insane.) One of the central tenents of democracy is a free press. That means a press free of government control. When the government controls the media, it's not really democracy because the elected government is telling people how to think through the media, which then influences the elections and BAM not democratic any more. The downside of this: Any time the government makes a law curbing the press, it can ultimately hurt them.

I'm not saying, by the way, that all laws regulating the press are bad. I really wish the FTC still had a cap on the number of media outlets one person or company can own, and a city by city limit as well. But once you start imposing rules like "you must tell the truth," you get into trouble. Whose truth? Monsanto has a point of view on GMF, and so did the people who opposed it. The reporters had a viewpoint on the story. I'm sure everything they wanted to write about was solidly based on facts. But a media company has the right to decide what stories run and what stories don't run. Reporters can decide this is unethical and work for a different organization or pursue any number of options. But if you want the government to force media companies to tell the truth, it seems that there's no way to avoid getting into difficulties that compromise the democratic process you're trying to protect.
posted by Happydaz at 1:42 AM on May 8, 2003


BTW, I'm curious & too drunk to look it up. Is the BBC government run, or is it a private entity? PBS is a non-profit; it isn't run by the boys in Washington, right?
posted by password at 1:43 AM on May 8, 2003


Password: The ITC is an independant body, separate from the government and the broadcasters. More here

The BBC is publically funded, but not government run.
posted by cell at 1:47 AM on May 8, 2003


Rupert's paid my bills for many years, on and off. And come on - The Simpsons, Married With Children...

He even started off his media empire in my home state, with the Adelaide Advertiser in South Australia.

But yeah, I probably have to agree. He is Satan Incarnate.

The thing that upsets me is the flack that his wife has received, first for being Asian and second for being younger than him. She was a senior management character in his media empire before they got it on: she's not a bimbo. Then you read news reports referring to her as a geisha and other demeaning stereotypes...

Lachlan Murdoch, his son, there's a real prick. He owes me three thousand bucks. GIVE ME MY MONEY!
posted by chrisgregory at 1:54 AM on May 8, 2003


Let's all have some fun. Watch Fox News, note their advertisers, and write to them telling them how disgusted you are that they choose to associate their product with lying turds who soil the profession of journalism.
posted by zaelic at 1:56 AM on May 8, 2003


Here's the codes & guidance notes for the Uk's ITC.
3.4 News
In addition to the general requirements relating to matters of political or industrial controversy or current public policy, the Act requires that any news, given in whatever form, must be presented with due accuracy and impartiality.

Reporting should be dispassionate and news judgements based on the need to give viewers an even?handed account of events. In reporting on matters of industrial or political controversy, the main differing views on the matter should be given their due weight in the period during which the controversy is active. Editorial discretion will determine whether a range of conflicting views is included within a single news item or whether it is acceptable to spread them over a series of bulletins.
On preview cell has beaten me to it.
posted by X-00 at 1:57 AM on May 8, 2003


Happydaz: I understand that point of view perfectly, however, it's that same 'a free press means an unfettered one' that is leading to protection of currupt campaign finance schemes and Nike calling their false advertisement 'free speech'.

I think the spirit of the first amandment is being choked to death by the lettering.

And no, I don't have a solution, if I did I'd be on Capitol Hill right now banging on the door.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:59 AM on May 8, 2003


If there can be no bias on British TV, then what happens on the Iron Chef?
posted by password at 2:06 AM on May 8, 2003


password, if it was up to the UK government, Murdoch would have all the leeway he wanted.
posted by Summer at 2:23 AM on May 8, 2003


Besides, Rupert Murdoch is Australian (I believe)

He was. He's an American now, though. Makes it easier to own a media network in the US, see. And yes, 'whore' is a good word; but it's actually governments whoring to Rupert, rather than the other way around. At least he's too much of a misogynist when it comes to business to put the only vaguely-competent one of his children in charge once he shuffles off to the underworld. So I hope I live long enough to see James or Lachlan fuck up big-style, just as they've managed to fuck up small-style in the apprentice jobs their father has handed to them.

The general principle in Britain is pretty refreshing, really: if it's printed and paid for by the reader, then it can wear its bias on its sleeve. If it's broadcast, then stricter standards apply.
posted by riviera at 3:40 AM on May 8, 2003


It is difficult to imagine Fox ever being involved with enlightening but non-commercial things like The Sky at Night, or Radio 3, or The Archers, or Panorama, or the World Service ... we need the BBC.
posted by plep at 3:54 AM on May 8, 2003


Metafilter: mathowie. It's why you hate america.
posted by crasspastor at 4:02 AM on May 8, 2003


Somehow mathowie has become an "it" and no longer a "he". . .
posted by crasspastor at 4:03 AM on May 8, 2003


  • Private newspapers and TV channels refuse to carry antiwar messages on their own property: CENSORSHIP! 1984! John Ashcroft!
  • Government agencies use force to block a pro-war TV channel: YAY!

    The hypocracy of the left never ceases to amaze me.

  • posted by dagny at 4:40 AM on May 8, 2003


    Did you bother reading the thread dagny? From cell's comment:

    The ITC is an independant body, separate from the government and the broadcasters.

    BTW, I don't think Fox would have any trouble if it wasn't labelling itself news. It's about standards, not viewpoints.
    posted by Summer at 4:52 AM on May 8, 2003


    Actually dagny, that goes hand-in-hand with the inpartiality thing. In the UK, basically what the commission says is that if you are reporting the news, then it has to be the facts, and just the facts. If the channel is reporting biased news, and not labeling it as op-ed, then perhaps running antiwar messages would balance that out.

    There is a basic premise in journalism that you report news completely unbiased when you are reporting the news. Your opinions are what op-eds are made for. When the news channel says yes, we can lie, but we still want to claim it as the news there is a certain problem there that could have repercusions. Just like false advertising laws, you can not legitimately expect people to lie and still claim the lies as fact.

    There seems to also be some confusion here between content and advertising. Advertising is paid messages, and would not reflect the concepts of the management or ownership of the channel, other than they like money (which we all know Rupert Murdoch does). But content, especially news content, needs to be unbiased and unaffected by the personal feelings of the reporters. Especially when the slogan of your channel is "We Report, You Decide" which in and of itself says they will be unbiased. Why else would everyone be saying "We distort, you comply."
    posted by benjh at 4:58 AM on May 8, 2003


    It's not even about viewpoints. In the UK, news agencies can say whatever the hell they want about a given issue. But, they must give equal weight and airtime to the opposing view.

    That's how "The News" is supposed to work, no?
    posted by influx at 4:59 AM on May 8, 2003


    Private newspapers and TV channels refuse to carry antiwar messages on their own property: CENSORSHIP! 1984! John Ashcroft! Government agencies use force to block a pro-war TV channel: YAY! The hypocracy of the left never ceases to amaze me.

    The ITC require (quite rightly) that television news broadcasts are even-handed and impartial. Neither of your examples strike me as particularly even-handed, so your charge of hypocrisy doesn't stand. If the BBC or ITN decided not to cover anti-war protests the ITC would be equally angered. Also, the ITC is not a government agency.

    On preview, what Summer said.
    posted by zygoticmynci at 5:03 AM on May 8, 2003


    I always used to roll my eyes when I heard people say that British TV was the best in the world...it seemed such a cliche. But having watched TV around the world, so far the cliche is so true.

    It should be pointed out that bias is allowed on UK TV but should be balanced with other biases to provide more complete coverage. Fairy Nuff to me.

    And you can stick yer 1st ammendment up yer arse if the freedom of Murdoch, Clear Channel, Bloomberg or any other cache of paid-for politicians to speak all but obliterates what the little guy has to say...
    posted by i_cola at 5:04 AM on May 8, 2003


    Oh, come on Dagny (pun intended) broadcast media is a powerful thing, that needs to be regulated.
    We're not talking censorship, merely a protection against enormously rich people buying media channels, and then pumping out their own agendas, with no duty to tell the truth.

    And that's what it largely comes down to: rich people being told that they can't use the public airways to spread their own personal propaganda.

    Following your own logic, Dagny, the fact that poor people are denied ownership of media channels, means that they and their own particular views and values are censored, by the market's inherent mechanics. Is that what you want? 'Cos that's what you've got, particularly in the US, without such duties as those addressed in this article.

    The ITC and the rules it upholds, are there to stop (generally wealthy) individulas from abusing the power which owning a news channel gives.

  • Metafilterian decries balance in journalism an outrage!

  • posted by Blue Stone at 5:08 AM on May 8, 2003


    It's a good thing we have government-supported bodies to tell us what 'The News" is. Makes it so much easier, and you get to stop thinking. And we all know the government never lies about its actions, of course.
    posted by IshmaelGraves at 5:14 AM on May 8, 2003


    Private newspapers and TV channels refuse to carry antiwar messages on their own property: CENSORSHIP! 1984! John Ashcroft!
    Link? If they're refusing to run stories on the antiwar movement, or antiwar oped pieces the question is matter of whether the antiwar movement is sufficiently large or vociferous enough to be newsworthy, and there's some lattitude for editorial discretion.

    If, on the other hand, they were refusing antiwar advertisements on purely political grounds (that is, if the ads didn't run afoul of FCC guidelines or whatever), that's a problem. What sort of democracy do you have if only one candidate is ever allowed to advertise on TV? The issue of antiwar ads isn't terribly far removed.
    Government agencies use force to block a pro-war TV channel: YAY!
    They're not blocking anyone yet. They're investigating charges of bias. If an organization is going to label itself as a news organization, as opposed to entertainment or opinion, there is a civic responsibility to report the [strong]news[/strong], not just the events that support their point of view. Where conflicting perspectives are available, a news organization has a responsibility to report on all of them (within the bounds of reason; a few nuts in Idaho who think something is evidence of extraterrestrial control of the United States Government probably doesn't make the cut, for example).
    The hypocracy of the left never ceases to amaze me.
    And the speed at which any debate with the right devolves into name-calling never ceases to amaze me.
    posted by setmajer at 5:15 AM on May 8, 2003


    As far as I can tell, "Hypocracy" would mean government from below. Which would certainly cover News International's aspirations, I think.
    posted by Grangousier at 5:16 AM on May 8, 2003


    It's a good thing we have government-supported bodies to tell us what 'The News" is. Makes it so much easier, and you get to stop thinking. And we all know the government never lies about its actions, of course.
    Wow. You know what? You're right. We should just let 'em all say whatever they want and then we'll know it's all bullshit without that annoying thinking.
    posted by setmajer at 5:20 AM on May 8, 2003


    Oh, come on Dagny (pun intended) broadcast media is a powerful thing, that needs to be regulated.

    Maybe my perspective is too different, as I don't own a TV, have never owned a radio and don't read major newspapers except online -- and when linked to from weblogs -- but even if it is "powerful", that does not mean it should be regulated. Indeed, if it is so important, that's a good reason why it shouldn't be controlled by bureaucrats and politicians.

    We're not talking censorship, merely a protection ...

    Yes, of course, not censorship but protection. I believe that is exactly the same argument Christian fundamentalists use when they want to censor nekkidness.
    posted by dagny at 5:21 AM on May 8, 2003


    Especially when the slogan of your channel is "We Report, You Decide" which in and of itself says they will be unbiased.
    Hmmm...perhaps Jane Akre and Steve Wilson could try for relief under truth-in-advertising regulations?
    posted by setmajer at 5:22 AM on May 8, 2003


    setmajer: You ask for a link, and I could give you many, but I'll just give one recent example... Only a couple of days ago, mefi user "bureaustyle" used the word censorship on Wal-Mart's decision not to sell certain magazines on its own property.
    posted by dagny at 5:24 AM on May 8, 2003


    Its been said a bunch of times in this thread already, but it seems to need saying again :

    ITC != the Government.

    The Independent Television Commission is not in the business of "censoring" TV stations or news agencies. They respond to viewer complaints and act accordingly. Unlike the US, UK news broadcasters are held to strict standards of impartiality and fairness.

    Its not exactly rare for the ITC to act on complaints of bias - anyone in the UK will be more than familiar with the official apologies that you see on the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 every now and again.



    And I'm still trying to see how even-handed news reporting is a bad thing.
    posted by influx at 5:24 AM on May 8, 2003


    America

    The only country where the poor place the rights of the rich above themselves.
    posted by CrazyJub at 5:28 AM on May 8, 2003


    Yes, of course, not censorship but protection. I believe that is exactly the same argument Christian fundamentalists use when they want to censor nekkidness.
    Neither the Florida case nor the investication by the ITC investigation were about stopping someone from speaking their mind. They were both about somebody (Fox News, to be precise) refusing to present other viewpoints while pretending to be unbiased.

    Completely different issues.
    posted by setmajer at 5:30 AM on May 8, 2003


    Only a couple of days ago, mefi user "bureaustyle" used the word censorship on Wal-Mart's decision not to sell certain magazines on its own property.
    Explain to me how this has any connection whatever to your post. I see nothing there at all about antiwar messages or television stations.
    posted by setmajer at 5:33 AM on May 8, 2003


    The Florida ruling is more complex than that simply FoxNews getting the right to lie. It was not and is not a first amendment case.

    First, it was a Fox network affiliate, not FoxNews Channel.

    Second, when the reporters were ordered to tone down a report critical of an agribusiness (re: bovine growth hormone in milk), they were fired. A wrongful dismissal suit was filed under the Whistleblowers Protection Act. The court ruled that the FCC 'guidelines' on truthful news reporting don't meet the standard of an 'officially adopted rule or regulation', and so the Whistleblower Act doesn't apply in this case.

    Third, nothing in the court ruling says that the FCC can't sanction the Fox affiliate for running false news reports, up to and including revocation of its broadcast license. (The fact that they didn't is a separate issue.) The precedent set is only that you can't use the Whistleblower Act if you're fired for threatening to go to the FCC after refusing to file a false news report as long as the FCC considers truthful reporting a guideline and not a rule.

    The remedy for this is to get the FCC to formally adopt rules regarding truthful news reporting. I was surpervised that such regulations were not already in place, but apparently the FCC feels that the 'public trust' rules are adequate in that regard. Obviously not.

    But I don't have major faith in Mr. Powell at this point.
    posted by Cerebus at 5:35 AM on May 8, 2003


    influx: It's not even about viewpoints. In the UK, news agencies can say whatever the hell they want about a given issue. But, they must give equal weight and airtime to the opposing view.
    Honest question: can this standard be even approximated much less adhered to completely? I mean do neo-nazis have a right to equal time if a story is printed about the horrors of WWII? And what about flat-earthers and creationists? Do they get equal time too? Somehow I assume the standards must be much more complicated than that?
    Having said that let me echo i_cola's and Blue Stone's sentiments as regards Murdoch and the oligarchs ownership of mass media in the US and add that, however it works, British TV (and indeed broad-sheet journalism) is probably among the best (if not the best) in the world.
    It's a good thing we have government-supported bodies to tell us what 'The News" is. Makes it so much easier, and you get to stop thinking. And we all know the government never lies about its actions, of course.
    As opposed to private behemoths that are not accountable to the public? I have some control (through my vote) of my government's actions and an independent, non-partisan commission funded by the government seems a whole lot more trustworthy than mr. Murdoch's goodwill.
    posted by talos at 5:40 AM on May 8, 2003


    I mean do neo-nazis have a right to equal time if a story is printed about the horrors of WWII? And what about flat-earthers and creationists?

    Pretty much.

    In the last few days there have been a lot of stories about the local council elections, in which the British National Party (a far-right party with neo-nazi and fascist links) won a worrying amount of seats.

    In their coverage, the BBC and ITN also interviewed BNP spokespersons, to present their point of view.

    And, its fairly safe to assume that if the creationist vs. Darwinism issue made national news, both sides of the argument would be represented.
    posted by influx at 5:45 AM on May 8, 2003


    And, its fairly safe to assume that if the creationist vs. Darwinism issue made national news, both sides of the argument would be represented.
    And that's the key there: made national news. Common Law (the system used both in the United States and the United Kingdom) makes ample use of 'reasonableness' tests. While I'm not intimately familiar with the regulations and guidelines in question, my understanding is that they do in fact rely on such a test. That is, the news media don't have to track down a monarchist or maoist to comment on every single issue, but where there is significant controversy they do have both an ethical and, to at least some degree, legal responsibility to present those arguments with a significant number of adherents.
    posted by setmajer at 5:51 AM on May 8, 2003


    dagny's little snark derailed itself in the first sentence:

    Private ... TV channels refuse to carry antiwar messages on their own property

    in the united states, the airwaves are not private property. they belong to the citizens, and broadcasters pay a fee and are granted a license to trespass on my airwaves. in return for performing a public service and ACTING IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST. after Fox's little smear job on moi last september, i pointed this out to the station manager. he laughed at me. it's time to get those corporatist bastards OUT OF THE FCC and put some public interest guardians in thier place. and crack down mightily on the sham being perpetrated across the nation by Fox affiliates. take the lying, propogandizing bastards off the air. cut off thier revenues and send em packing. hell, make it a felony to report anything not confirmed by two independent sources. make speculative "analysis" a crime punishable by immediate license revokation. our local fox affiliate ran a 'news' story about america's idol a few days ago, this should be illegal or forced to be clearly delinieated as advertising. reinstitute the limits on media ownership within markets. dismantle the bullshit machine.
    posted by quonsar at 6:08 AM on May 8, 2003


    I mean do neo-nazis have a right to equal time if a story is printed about the horrors of WWII? And what about flat-earthers and creationists? Do they get equal time too?

    If the story was about neo-nazis then yes, they'd need to be represented. The Government tried to get round this in the 80s in the case of IRA terrorists by having the likes of Gerry Adams dubbed (to make him less credible) - a stupid, stupid thing to do and counter-productive, but better than silencing him I suppose.

    after Fox's little smear job on moi last september

    What's the story?
    posted by Summer at 6:16 AM on May 8, 2003


    Thank you Cerebus, the court ruling was pretty much covered ad nauseam on this post. The actual ruling is here (.pdf) and if anyone would choose to read it before waxing prophetic about how Rupert Murdoch tramples our First Amendment rights they would see that yes, indeed, it has nothing to do with the 1st Amendment and everything to do with the limitations of whistleblower statutes.
    posted by Pollomacho at 6:17 AM on May 8, 2003


    A few years ago I made a video for a top notch rocking indie band who were signed to the very hip label Fierce Panda. Bit of a shock that when they sent me the cheque it was from News International, not FP. That's right, Murdoch owns fight-the-power hip indie labels. Murdoch owns everything. You puny humans cannot hope to fight him. Bow down and worship the almighty dirty digger. Murdoch even owns Mathowie. Probably.

    Skylar, he doesn't really ;)
    posted by ciderwoman at 6:20 AM on May 8, 2003


    our local fox affiliate ran a 'news' story about america's idol a few days ago, this should be illegal or forced to be clearly delinieated as advertising.

    Would there be anything left on any channel anymore? Doubtful.
    posted by Pollomacho at 6:22 AM on May 8, 2003


    Ciderwoman, Murdoch's NewsCorp. is one of a handful of companies that literally do own all media. Vivendi Universal, Aol/Time Warner, Sony, Viacom, Liberty Media and NewsCorp own it all. They all make back room sweetheart deals with each other, but Murdoch actually is the odd man out, thus the "American Idol" has all but disappeared yet Eminem has an Oscar. Murdoch runs his global empire on sheer balls and by feeding the public all the schlock they are fully willing to consume, and they do and it works (plus he's got the Simpsons).
    posted by Pollomacho at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2003


    When you don't agree with the viewpoints expressed by an entity, the proper thing to do is revoke that entity's ability to communicate in toto. That relieves you of the onerous burden of either ignoring what is being said, or (gasp!) actually thinking about what is being said and coming up with a logical reason why you disagree. Without that burden, you are free to live in a nice comfortable cocoon where anything you could possibly hear fits perfectly with your own worldview.

    And here's another thing to chew on: In hindsight, most of the "pro-U.S." (and pro-Britain, I might add) reporting during the war turned out to be far more accurate (i.e., "truthful") than many other outlets, including the BBC. During the early weeks, when the BBC and NPR and The New York Times were painting a picture of doom and gloom, and suggesting that the war was getting bogged down and that tens of thousands of innocent people were sure to get killed, and that the anti-war movement was gaining traction, Fox tended to focus on the actual progress of the campaign, and refused to engage in the "chicken little" prognosticating. Of course, none of those "claims" turned out to have merit. It's somewhat ironic, isn't it, that of all the major news organizations, Fox was the most accurate in terms of the actual course of the war, and yet it may be "shut down" due to its coverage of that war?

    I'm not saying Fox is free from bias (it's not even my personal choice for news). But bias/fairness is always in the eye of the beholder, and you'll find no shortage of people who would say that the BBC was far more biased than Fox.
    posted by pardonyou? at 6:28 AM on May 8, 2003


    ITC != the Government.

    You're running into that "separated by a common language" thing.

    In the US, "the government" is just the state, not the gaggle of people currently running it.

    If the ITC is an instrumentality of the state with the ability to force broadcasters to do or not do stuff, it's part of the government in US terms.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:31 AM on May 8, 2003


    Vivendi Universal
    AOL Time Warner
    Viacom
    Sony
    Liberty Media
    NewsCorp
    posted by Pollomacho at 6:36 AM on May 8, 2003


    I think any station that employs a man with such horrible plastic surgery as Shepard Smith ought to be taken off air with no argument. Look at that man's picture! He's about as natural as Paul MacCartney's wife's left leg!

    It's at times like this I wish that Bill Hicks were still alive so I could see him being interviewed by Bill O'Reilly. I'm sure Hicks could show O'Reilly a thing or too about the 'no-spin zone'.
    posted by tapeguy at 6:36 AM on May 8, 2003


    The coverage given to the BNP recently is a bit different from the usual right-to-reply stuff in the UK. Since the BNP was standing in council elections, it had the right to 'proportionate' coverage under the Representation of the People Act, which covers the reporting -- press and broadcast -- of elections. Expect them to fade into the background, except for when John Humphreys wants to get a trumped up neo-fascist to talk about asylum policy at 7:10am.

    The Government tried to get round this in the 80s in the case of IRA terrorists by having the likes of Gerry Adams dubbed

    Actually, it wasn't the Government behind the dubbing; the emergency powers stated that Sinn Fein members couldn't have their voices broadcast, and it was the news organisations which felt their way around it: first by paraphrasing, then by using subtitles, then, finally, by the ridiculous 'words spoken by an actor' thing. I remember one of the papers doing a follow-up after the ban was lifted, checking up on all those Adams/McGuinness sound-a-like actors, and seeing how they were coping with their return to life as 'resting' thesps.

    you'll find no shortage of people who would say that the BBC was far more biased than Fox.

    And they would be... morons. (Since Hicks was mentioned just above.)

    Anyway, I'm still waiting for the ITC to come down like a ton of horseshit on ITN, for its drift towards 'entertain-news' especially on the early-evening bulletins. A five-minute piece on a film premiere, or a trailer for 'The Shite With Trevor McDonald', is not news.
    posted by riviera at 6:39 AM on May 8, 2003


    From the ITC's "What We Don't Do" page:

    We don't regulate satellite channels from other countries - that's a matter for their national authorities, whose standards may vary from ours.

    So, why in this case can they threaten to revoke Fox's license?
    posted by techgnollogic at 6:40 AM on May 8, 2003


    Let's say the US government funds the MPAA and that the MPAA has the power to require complaince with its decisions.

    We'd all be ok with the MPAA deciding that R rated films were no longer acceptable to protect our children from images of violence and sexuality.

    This wouldn't be censorship because the MPAA is an independent organization?

    If the ITC is not a government body, if it is just some kind of industry ruling body, what recourse does Fox News have for delivering its content outside the authority of the ITC? If the British government has decreed that all broadcast companies be under authority of the ITC, has funded the ITC, then I don't really see how the ITC is not acting as a government agent even if it isn't directly controlled by the government.

    This is why in the U.S. local, state, and federal jurisdictions are not allowed to pass laws requiring that theaters comply with MPAA ratings. Because then the MPAA essentially becomes a state-sponsored censor.
    posted by obfusciatrist at 6:42 AM on May 8, 2003


    To be fair, there are still a few truly independant media outlets (May Not Be Safe For Work, if you work in, say, a Christian bookstore), but they are few and far between.
    posted by Pollomacho at 6:44 AM on May 8, 2003


    So, why in this case can they threaten to revoke Fox's license?

    I assume because Fox News goes out on the Sky satellite network, a British company.
    posted by influx at 6:44 AM on May 8, 2003


    During the early weeks, when the BBC and NPR and The New York Times were painting a picture of doom and gloom, and suggesting that the war was getting bogged down and that tens of thousands of innocent people were sure to get killed, and that the anti-war movement was gaining traction, Fox tended to focus on the actual progress of the campaign, and refused to engage in the "chicken little" prognosticating.

    I don't follow the NYT, but NPR and BBCA (and the CBC)were loaded with embedded reports tracking the progress of the war that were indistinguishable from the other networks' reports of steady progress, just more detailed. Unlike Fox, they also covered the antiwar movement and reports of doubt and uncertainty coming from inside and outside Iraq. You know: fair and balanced?
    posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:49 AM on May 8, 2003


    influx: yes, I see. But it's the equal part that seems debatable. Certainly BNP candidates weren't equally represented on BBC, say, as a whole, compared to the Labour party? Or do you mean to say that before the last parliamentary elections the time given to Conservative candidates was equal to those of the Socialist Alliance?
    posted by talos at 6:59 AM on May 8, 2003


    Riviera, I too wait for the ITC to slap ITN down for the trash they now peddle. Got to said it's not entirely their fault for having so little money that they have to put rolling news on a loop and cover film premieres as they're having to operate under a stupidly tight budget these days becuase guess who is busy undercutting them for the ITV tender.
    posted by ciderwoman at 7:09 AM on May 8, 2003


    Why does the UK hate America?

    Matt: here's the very intelligent, sensible and much respected novelist Margaret Drabble in today's Daily Telegraph. I think her sentiments are fairly representative of the British mood right now.
    posted by MiguelCardoso at 7:26 AM on May 8, 2003


    Miguel, you live in Portugal.
    posted by Summer at 7:42 AM on May 8, 2003


    Miguel's post made me curious about the DT's corporate info. It reads like a bizarre fiction! The CEO is the ominous Lord Black and its history says that in 1987 they moved their offices to the Isle of Dogs. Are you sure that this isn't just something Rupert Murdoch made up as a joke?
    posted by Pollomacho at 7:47 AM on May 8, 2003


    - So, why in this case can they threaten to revoke Fox's license?

    Revoking the right for a foreign network to broadcast on British airspace is not the same as censoring a foreign channel. After all, if you could pick up Fox independently they wouldn't stop you - it's just the fact that they pay to be part of a British satellite broadcast package, and therefore are asked to abide by the rules that govern British TV.

    So they're saying "if you want to play in our game, you have to abide by the rules". Seems fair enough to me.

    It may seem like semantics, but it does make a difference.
    posted by blastboy at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2003


    The only country where the poor place the rights of the rich above themselves.


    All in the name of social mobility, now that is vey fucking funny.
    posted by johnnyboy at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2003


    On another side note to Miguel's article, just in case you wondered, the nose painting is not a smiling cartoon figure, they are sneering beast faces and the long tradition comes from as far back as WWI where we picked up boldly decorating planes from Europeans. Its also not today a uniquely American past time. Just thought you should know that, thanks for your time.
    posted by Pollomacho at 8:10 AM on May 8, 2003


    Matt: here's the very intelligent, sensible and much respected novelist Margaret Drabble in today's Daily Telegraph.

    Uhhh... British people hate America because A-10's have nose art?
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2003


    But, they must give equal weight and airtime to the opposing view. That's how "The News" is supposed to work, no?

    No. Who says there's a credible opposing view? Who says there's just one opposing view?
    posted by Mars Saxman at 8:19 AM on May 8, 2003


    So, why in this case can they threaten to revoke Fox's license?

    Because Fox News is registered in the UK for its transmissions in Europe. If they had chosen to register in Paris (as Al Jazeera do) then the ITC would not have any authority over them.
    posted by kerplunk at 8:20 AM on May 8, 2003


    The link about Fox firing its reporters for threatening to go to the FCC and arguing in court taht they don't have to tell the truth makes me sad. If I knew Jesus I think I'd ring him up and ask what he thought of it.

    SC, that's not what happen...Fox did not get the right to lie. In fact, THE COURT NEVER REACHED THAT ISSUE, NOR WAS THAT ISSUE EVER EVEN WHAT THE SUIT WAS ABOUT OR EVEN AN ISSUE AT ALL.

    I hate Fox, but at least know a bit about the law before commenting.
    posted by Bag Man at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2003


    My history teachers at school taught the subject thus:

    There is no such thing as "The Truth", merely a number of either conflicting or mutually supportive accounts which we gather together and call Evidence.

    If this evidence is contemporary with and geographically close to the subject we are studying we might give them special weighting, whilst remaining aware of the possibility that the author of the document may well be lying. In fact, it's best to assume that they are, and to crosscheck the document with other documents from different sources and points of view.

    From this we can build up a picture of our subject, but must remain aware that that picture could change at any time with the introduction of new evidence.

    I don't know if that's the way that History is taught in other places, but those seem to be the principles that underlie the editorial rules of the broadsheets and the BBC, and I think they're absolutely the right ones.

    In at least three places (Newsnight, World at One and Today, the latter two on Radio 4) the presenters take it as their duty to be as aggressively sceptical as possible in their interviews, whether that be with the government, the opposition or anyone else. It's wonderful to see the shellshocked expression on the faces of U.S. military spokesmen who simply aren't used to being treated as a hostile witness. It's not a sign of "Anti-American Bias", it's simply the way in which things are done, and it gets results - the Cockburn doctrine: "When speaking to politicians, it's important always to ask yourself the question 'Why is this lying bastard lying to me?'".

    So the BBC may be sponsored by the State, and the ITC might be a de facto state organisation (I don't think that's so, but whatever), but if they continue to offer the opportunity for a diversity of points of view to be known and for a vigorous interrogation of those in authority to happen, then fine. The system works. From what I've seen of CNN, MSNBC and Fox on cable the American equivalent seems to result in a highly interpreted mulch, usually (far from the claims of some here) supporting the interests of the status quo and leaving a lot of assumptions unquestioned. I don't think that what Murdoch produces should technically even be called journalism, or at least it's journalism in the same sense that what a prostitute does is "massage".

    Remember: "Why is this lying bastard lying to me?".
    posted by Grangousier at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2003


    a historical note: prior to about 1930 or so, the idea of objective journalism and/or giving opposing views equal time didn't really exist as we define it. Newspapers were very openly political, and often as not we're openly affiliated wth political parties and/or other interest groups. At the same time, there were a LOT of them (NYC had over 25 daily papers publishing at the turn of the last century), so any one individual would be able to draw his or her news from a wide variety of viewpoints and reports, and thus negotiate the (little t) truth as they best could.

    Today, objective news coverage is a sort of goal, rather than a baseline. Most journalism scholars agree that bias is inherent due to the human element in news reporting - so long as you have people who have ideas and opinions reporting teh news, there will be biases in that reportage. So it seems silly that BBC would ban Fox for bias, when they themselves undoubtedly have just as much inherent bias as Fox. THAT SAID, I think that BBC has the right to carry any programming they see fit - and conversely, discontinue carrying any program they see fit, and they need not give any reason for doing so. If the don't want to continue carrying Fox and whatever contracts they have don't prohibit them discontinuing Fox programming, they have every right to give 'em the hook.

    As always, you determine what the truth is for yourself by seeking out wide reportage and thinking critically. You may not agree with Fox, but they are simply presenting the news as they see fit, and I've always thought that the best way to voice one's disagreement with their methods is in the classic manner: by not watching their programming.
    posted by UncleFes at 9:29 AM on May 8, 2003


    I think her sentiments are fairly representative of the British mood right now.

    She sounded like a raving left wing lunatic.
    posted by Beholder at 9:31 AM on May 8, 2003


    As someone who is sitting in the UK right know, I can safely state that altho' Drabble's article may cover some of the fustrations felt by a chunk of the UK population, it is in no way an expression of general feelings. Mr Cardoso is 79 & lives in Porto ;-)

    Following on from what Grangousier said, John Simpson's latest book "News from No Man's Land: Reporting the World" gives, amongst his usual stories about reporting from around the world, a pretty good run down of the inner workings of the BBC & it's news depts. & how it attempts to carry out the remit of impartiality.
    posted by i_cola at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2003


    I've only skimmed this but it looks like it could be a good read in relation to this thread...The transcript of a speech John Simpson gave in February at Dundee University. And a link at the bottom for those who would rather watch & listen...
    posted by i_cola at 9:41 AM on May 8, 2003


    i_cola your last sentence just summed up the problem with the boob-tube news. No thinking involved.

    who would rather watch & listen...
    posted by thomcatspike at 9:45 AM on May 8, 2003


    "So it seems silly that BBC would ban Fox for bias"

    Yeah, you might want to try reading the story.
    posted by influx at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2003


    ...and digest?
    posted by i_cola at 10:03 AM on May 8, 2003


    Miguel's half-British. He counts as British.
    posted by plep at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2003


    BTW, Miguel, thanks for posting the Margaret Drabble piece. It does sum up the mood of a significant proportion of British public opinion - although it's not -America- they hate, but the perceived pursuit of narrow self-interest and material values at the expense of cultural and human ones. (Whether true or not, that is the perception, and that's what counts).

    Knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing is something the British have also been guilty of in the past. America is not just a ruling clique, but also jazz and the Constitution.

    For an equally well-written but somewhat less strident piece, see Margaret Atwood's Letter to America.
    posted by plep at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2003


    ...and digest?

    You have me there. (I hope)
    posted by thomcatspike at 11:08 AM on May 8, 2003


    Thank you, plep. I'm sorry if I was too forthright and presumptious about calling Drabble's piece representative. What I really meant, of course, was that my mother thought it was spot on. ;)
    posted by MiguelCardoso at 11:09 AM on May 8, 2003


    Matt: here's the very intelligent, sensible and much respected novelist Margaret Drabble in today's Daily Telegraph.

    Miguel, I can't comment on her intelligence or the level of respect she commands, but (based on this piece, at least), sensible she is not. In fact, reading that screed convinces me that she has lost her senses, if she ever had them. She even seems to admit as much, using words and phrases like "uncontrollable," "possessed," "disease," and "uncontainable rage." Even mention of a medical condition (acid reflux) is bizarrely identified as "that fashionable American sickness." What the fuck is that? She sees American planes painted with teeth, and now she can't stand hamburgers (never mind that the British Royal Air Force started the practice)!

    Depth of feeling is not an argument. There are people on all sides of every issue who feel passionately. Instead of using the space as personal therapy, why didn't she try to explain why someone should agree with her that her feelings are justified?

    Heck, I'd settle for just knowing whether she would have found the war more moral if the planes had not had teeth.
    posted by pardonyou? at 11:11 AM on May 8, 2003


    although it's not -America- they hate, but the perceived pursuit of narrow self-interest and material values at the expense of cultural and human ones. (Whether true or not, that is the perception, and that's what counts).

    Perception counts more than truth, eh? Outside of the postmodernists, I think most people would beg to differ.
    posted by pardonyou? at 11:21 AM on May 8, 2003


    Decorating your war-machines with fearsome images is a tradition at least as old as the Vikings (apropos of nothing much).
    posted by grahamwell at 11:38 AM on May 8, 2003


    Yeah, you might want to try reading the story.

    Do I have to? Gleeful deadhorse-beating is kind of boring, and I read a lot of it here already. It's not really pertinent to what I was trying to point out.

    *reads*

    Oh, excuse me, ITC is trying to dump Fox. I beg the readership a thousand pardons.
    posted by UncleFes at 11:40 AM on May 8, 2003


    Upon second review, I suppose it's rather restrained for the Guardian (if rather ironic in light of their own bias), so please ignore the deadhorse-beating comment.
    posted by UncleFes at 11:41 AM on May 8, 2003


    pardonyou? :- I should have qualified that as 'perception is what counts as far as public opinion is concerned'. Yes, as far as forming public opinion goes, perception and persuasion does count for more than absolute truth. (Political opinions != scientific truths; different kettle of fish).
    posted by plep at 11:45 AM on May 8, 2003


    The only country where the poor place the rights of the rich above themselves.


    All in the name of social mobility, now that is vey fucking funny.


    Yeah, America is possibly the only land in the world where the poor routinely give the rich something of a free pass because they all want to become rich themselves some day. That's not a particularly realistic approach to public policy, however.
    posted by kgasmart at 12:00 PM on May 8, 2003


    As a Canadian living under the former Conrad Black newspaper monopoly I find it absolutely glee-inducing that Americans used to Rupert Murdoch think that Black is actually some kind of over-the-top joke.

    Thanks to Jean Chretien not being cool with a Canadian citizen receiving a British title, we got him to leave back to merry old England.

    Now if only we could get rid of the Aspers...
    posted by Space Coyote at 1:49 PM on May 8, 2003


    The only reason that Fox News would be banned is that its bias runs against the current bias of the majority of the British public. Al Jazeera, an equally, if not more, biased network, is allowed to go its merry way while the "dangerous" Fox News is censored.
    posted by mr. man at 3:28 PM on May 8, 2003


    The truly ironic thing here, is that the ITC was given the responsibility to enforce impartiality, by a conservative government, paranoid of criticism by the BBC.

    The ITC is a quango (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation), which meant that the government could stuff it with party faithfull, rather than it being subject to normal checks and balances.
    posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:48 PM on May 8, 2003


    An indication of the quality of Fox News is that Sky News in the UK shows CBS News bulletins - when they're the same company as Fox.
    posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:30 PM on May 8, 2003


    The Margaret Atwood letter was surprising, considering she's been honing and grinding her bilious loathing and uncontrollable hatred for America and Americans for decades. The other Margaret (Drabble) sounded more like what I thought Atwood would have sounded like, just spun-out misdirected hysteria.

    If either one of them are indicative of the moods of entire nations, I propose immediate Prozac airstrikes.

    Fox news? Decent website. I haven't seen it broadcast, as it's not an option in South of Kookistan, but as long as they have Ann Coulter on as often as possible, how can it be anything but splendid?

    And honestly, we have enough leftist news organizations already, thanks.
    posted by hama7 at 4:34 PM on May 8, 2003


    And honestly, we have enough leftist news organizations already, thanks.

    Leftest news? Maybe commentary? News is news, spunned, twisted or lied. Find most the same, it's the charcters that spin it, not the logo. It's written for a child to understand.
    posted by thomcatspike at 4:58 PM on May 8, 2003


    excuse the errors, spun, characters
    posted by thomcatspike at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2003


    Forget the part about being banned in the UK...what I want to know is, why is "dissing" the Dalai Lama such a horrible thing? And if you read the quote, Murdoch didn't exactly "dis" the Lama...he said that there are some cynics who might call the Lama a "political monk in Gucci shoes."

    Either way, on my deathbed, I will receive. Total. Conciousness.

    So I got that going for me.
    posted by davidmsc at 5:07 PM on May 8, 2003


    Which is nice.
    posted by pardonyou? at 7:24 PM on May 8, 2003


    The only reason that Fox News would be banned is that its bias runs against the current bias of the majority of the British public. Al Jazeera, an equally, if not more, biased network, is allowed to go its merry way while the "dangerous" Fox News is censored.

    mr. man, it was pointed out earlier that Al Jazeera operates from Paris. Why anyone would want to defend Fox News is beyond me though... I'd be willing to bet that Rupert, being the ultra-cynical ex-Aussie he is, would privately find his station's notion of unbiased reporting to be laughable.

    Regarding political systems, media freedoms and constitutional rights, etc, it is my opinion that the American approach to these kind of issues doesn't appear to work in practice. I always find it intriguing in debates over such issues that so many Americans want to focus on the idealistic benefits of their system while ignoring the practical results. But, then again, I certainly ain't no expert...
    posted by Onanist at 9:56 PM on May 8, 2003


    quoth pardonyou?
    When you don't agree with the viewpoints expressed by an entity, the proper thing to do is revoke that entity's ability to communicate in toto.
    Jesus, what part of 'investigated for bias' don't you understand? The issue is allegations that Fox News only presented their view and then labeled it as objective news.

    They can present whatever damn viewpoint they like so long as they either don't label it news or provide proportionate coverage for differing views.
    posted by setmajer at 11:13 PM on May 8, 2003


    weitere sprachte pardonyou?
    And here's another thing to chew on: In hindsight, most of the "pro-U.S." (and pro-Britain, I might add) reporting during the war turned out to be far more accurate (i.e., "truthful") than many other outlets, including the BBC.
    Don't be absurd. Who eventually won isn't determinative as to who is 'right.' Doubts that turn out to be unfounded don't invalidate a given perspective in toto.

    Yeah, the Coalition of the Willing mopped up. Bully for them. They also inflicted a helluva lot of suffering and found an Iraqi populace that was a helluva lot more conflicted than they expected.

    The fact is coverage on even the BBC was sanitized. I have the luxury of switching between CNNi, BBC World and EuroNews, and the latter showed far more of what was really happening than either of the first two. Whether their summaries and analysis were more accurate or not is debatable, but it is absolutely the case that the BBC and CNNi did a poor job of giving viewers an idea of what it was actually like to be in Iraq during the war. Being there, whether you thougth it a good thing or not, sucked. However righteous or necessary it may be, war sucks to live through. I didn't get that from CNNi or the BBC nearly as well as I did from EuroNews--it was almost as if they were covering two different conflicts. If Fox News made the war seem even less repulsive than CNNi or the BBC, then I for one think they're doing a grave disservice to the public at the very least.

    Perhaps the war was, on balance, a Good Thing. I don't know, and I sure as hell don't know how anyone can say that if their picture of it is some American tanks rushing about the desert and hordes of Iraqis dancing in the street, which is what it looked like on the BBC and especially CNNi.
    posted by setmajer at 11:29 PM on May 8, 2003


    thus spake obfuscationist
    Let's say the US government funds the MPAA and that the MPAA has the power to require complaince with its decisions.

    We'd all be ok with the MPAA deciding that R rated films were no longer acceptable to protect our children from images of violence and sexuality.

    This wouldn't be censorship because the MPAA is an independent organization?
    <!--beats head on desk-->

    Nobody's saying Fox can't run pro-war pieces. The ITC is just saying they can't run them and call them 'the news' unless they also present opposing viewpoints (if any).
    posted by setmajer at 12:07 AM on May 9, 2003


    Mars Saxman opined
    No. Who says there's a credible opposing view? Who says there's just one opposing view?
    Nobody, necessarily. If there are no opposing views, then there is no need to present them. If there is more than one opposing view, then they all should be represented.

    In the case of GWII, there was at least one opposing view that had significant support. If a program is to be called 'the news' then it should report on that opposing view and should keep its reports as unbiased as possible.
    posted by setmajer at 12:10 AM on May 9, 2003


    Davidmsc, Murdoch was essentially reporting what the "cynic" had said, as a way of repeating the slur, without taking responsibility for it.

    Feigning innocence, whilst sticking the boot in.

    The article I linked to, I admit, does not convey the incident in it's full poisonousness.
    posted by Blue Stone at 1:43 AM on May 9, 2003


    If there are no opposing views, then there is no need to present them. If there is more than one opposing view, then they all should be represented.

    I should have an argument for you, except for all the things I should have, I simply do not have them today. But it's not for a lack of trying.

    Fuck your passive aggressive rightist apologetics. You know full well there are plenty of opposing views the world over. Get used to it or get to the extermination already.
    posted by crasspastor at 2:57 AM on May 9, 2003


    I like it when people get so apoplectic that they start lashing out at anything that moves, regardless of whether or not they actually ostensibly agree on an issue. It's kinda like a feeding frenzy, where the sharks get so crazed over some morsel of food that they start biting each other, without even noticing.
    posted by Snyder at 6:26 AM on May 9, 2003


    < !--beats head desk-->

    Nobody's saying Fox can't run pro-war pieces. The ITC is just saying they can't run them and call them 'the news' unless they also present opposing viewpoints (if any).


    And I wasn't commenting on whether what the ITC is doing is censorship. I was commenting on whether ITC is incapable of censorship because of its independent status. A claim I read as having been made several times in this thread.

    However, I would argue that "equal time" goals can also create bias. As it can elevate fringe ideas or movements to an apparent equality of importance, which is just as much a distortion of the truth as ignorning them completely.

    And ultimately, the problem with eliminating bias is that people tend to view themselves as in the middle and everybody else as more biased than themselves. Thus CNN gets lambasted by the right as a leftist mouthpiece and from the left as a corporate schill for the rich. If you institutionalize tools to remove what you view as bias, you may someday find that somebody else has that power and views your "unbiased" position as horribly biased. After all, there are a lot of people in America (I have no idea about Britain, where it would actually matter) that feel the BBC is pretty biased, that even if it technically presents both sides, it still makes it clear which is the preferred version.

    Now, I'm not saying that Britain shouldn't do this. It is not my country they can do what they want without protest from me. But it would be my preference that government stay out of these things. If Fox wanted to air reruns of the Power Rangers and call it "hard hitting, unbiased, news of the day" then I don't really care.
    posted by obfusciatrist at 6:52 AM on May 9, 2003


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